Thomas Wood


WOOD Thomas (1886-) China and Glass Dealer


In 1934, it was decided to make a permanent record of inhabitants of Staffordshire who had conducted the County’s affairs and administered its religious, professional and business life.  This publication, a Who's Who of Staffordshire includes the following information about one Thomas Wood:  


WOOD, Thomas.
Retired China and Glass Dealer.
Moss Side, West End Villas, Stockton Brook, Stoke-on-Trent.

Born 1866, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Son of the late Joseph Wood.
Educated at Church of England Elementary Schools.

Married 1897, Mary, daughter of the late Richard Sargeant.

Past President of Hanley, and also N. Staffs Federation Free Church Councils; 
Past President of Brotherhood Movement; 
Present, Circuit Steward, Ex-Wesleyan and now Methodist Church, Hanley, member fifteen years Stoke on Trent City Council (present).

War Service at Home and France, 1916 to 1918.

What else is known about Thomas Wood?  Has he left any other traces in the history of Stoke on Trent?   

Wood family lore has it that, some time in the mid-nineteenth century, two or more brothers of the Wood family moved from the nearby village of Bagnall to Birches Head in search if not of their fortunes then at least of better opportunities.  Tradition has it that the family were farmers and that one of the Wood ancestors had an Old Testament name such as Amos.  Family traditions are not always reliable guides to historical facts, but in this case there is some documentary confirmation: census records from the nineteenth century show that Councillor Thomas Wood’s grandparents were Thomas and Jane Wood, both born in Bagnall in around 1821. 
Thomas and Jane must have moved at or soon after their marriage, for the 1861 census shows that all of their six children were born in Hanley.  Memorial inscriptions at Bagnall mention several Woods, including Moses (died 1849 aged 80): whether Moses is the Old Testament name of Thomas Wood’s dimly remembered ancestor has yet to be discovered.  

The oldest son of Thomas and Jane Wood from Bagnall was christened Joseph.  Joseph Wood lived in Birches Head and Northwood all his life, working as a potter’s packer.  In 1871, the census takers found him living at 26 Birch Street Hanley, with his wife Ann, born in Ashley Heath, Staffordshire, and Thomas, their five-year-old son, born in “Northwood”, Hanley.  Birth certificates for the couple’s children show that Ann’s maiden name was Emery, and that she was illiterate: when registering the births she made her mark instead of signing her name. 

Though the Who’s Who takes the traditional line of naming only Thomas’s father, it seems likely that his mother’s family was influential in his early life.  
We can see from the birthplaces listed for her children on the census that Ann’s mother, another Ann Emery, moved from Ashley Heath to Hanley sometime between 1849 and 1854.  The two families were living side by side in Birch Street in both 1871 and 1881. 
What Ann Emery’s husband, who was dead by 1871, did for a living we do not know, and therefore the source of Ann’s annuity, as reported to the census takers, must remain an unsolved puzzle. 

What seems clear is that the families of the two Anns remained close over the decades.  As late as 1891, Samuel Emery, Thomas’s 22 year-old cousin, was living with the Woods and their seven children at 42 Victoria Street (now renamed Cardwell Street).  By 1907, Joseph had moved again, this time to Rose Street, Northwood.

The information provided on the late nineteenth century census returns gives little clue to the varied and relatively successful path that Thomas would take through life.  Joseph and Ann Wood had seven surviving children.   Thomas was working as a potter’s warehouseman in 1881.  By 1891 he seems to have become a potter’s printer, though the handwriting on the census form is difficult to decipher.  Brothers Albert and William are potters’ warehouse workers, and younger sister Ann Jane (“Jenny”) is an apprentice paintress. Only one son, Joseph, seems likely to forge a future away from the pottery industry: he is an apprentice tailor.  The two youngest members of the family, Ethel (aged 9) and Gertrude (aged 6) are not working. 

What became of Thomas’s brothers and sisters?

Albert, Tom’s junior by five years, eventually exchanged warehouses for chapels, becoming a Methodist Minister.  He is commemorated by an inscription at Hanley Cemetery:  “Albert WOOD of Bramhall, h/o Lilian Annie, 16 Feb 1944, 73”. 

The third son, Joseph, became a successful tailor, living for some time at Cromwell House, on Leonard (now called Birches Head) Road.  In Birches Head, he met and married Ann Hall, daughter of George Scarr Hall, former non-conformist temperance lecturer and bookseller. 

George moved into Hanley in 1887 and worked as a printer’s compositor. 

Ann’s brother, George Cyril Hall, founded Hall’s engineering firm on Town Road, Hanley, which still exists. 

Joseph Wood, Tailor, is listed in the Potteries and Newcastle District Directory for 1907, showing that he was working on his own account by that date.  In the early 1920s, Joseph left the City, moving back to the very village from which the family had migrated almost a century earlier.  Until his death in 1954 he lived at Brightside, Milton Road, Bagnall. 

The fourth son, William, is said to have became a grocer, with a shop in the Northwood area of Hanley.

Ann Jane, the oldest sister, became Mrs Wakefield, and Ethel married Tom Leighton. 

The youngest, Gertrude, known as “Poor Gertie” because of her learning difficulties and poor health, is thought to have died in her teens.

As for Thomas himself, he, as Who’s Who explains, became a china and fancy goods retailer.  We can trace the whereabouts of his shops from commercial directories of the time:

in both 1907 and 1912 his listed business addresses are Fountain Square, Hanley and 150 Keelings Road.  His address for 1912 is given as 98, Baskerville Road, though a Rate Book for 1915-16 shows that J. Wood, not Thomas himself, owned this property. 

The same rate book shows that the Fountain Square china shop was owned, as was the French Horn public house on the one side and the shop on the other, by Albert Baddeley.  At this time its rateable value was £20. 

The French Horn, Fountain Square Hanley
The French Horn, Fountain Square Hanley

No pictures of the shops as they were in Thomas’s time seem to have survived, but an early anonymous sketch of the Fountain Square premises as they were in around 1830 has been preserved in the Warrillow collection at the University of Keele.  Even at the time when Thomas first set up his china and fancy goods business, the tiny property must have seemed something of a survival. 

The Wood Family (about 1897)

Joseph Jnr.
                     Thomas           William                      Mr Wakefield
Joseph Snr.                                                                                     Ann Wood  (Born Ann Hall)
                    Polly (Thom’s wife)        Albert             Jenny (Ann Jane) Wakefield
                           Ann Emery                            Ann Wood
                  Ethel          Gertrude

This, then, is the family that, in the late nineteenth century, arranged themselves, with carpet, potted plants and family dog, to have their picture taken.


Thomas and Polly Wood had no children of their own, so when he retired, Thomas passed his business on to Albert, the son-in-law of his brother Joseph. 
The premises continued as a fancy goods shop until the late twentieth century, when it was finally incorporated with the French Horn next door.   There must still be many people in Hanley who remember it: there was always a wooden box of teapot lids outside on the pavement, and it sold everything from chamber pots and stone hot water bottles through to Wedgwood, Beswick and Doulton.   

Albert was a keen tenor, and a founder member of the Ceramic City Choir.  Early documents reproduced in Paul Anderton’s history of the choir show that J and T Wood were vice presidents of the choir in 1943: it seems reasonable to suppose that Albert had recruited their support, as he had that of his father. 
Not only were the Woods related to Albert by marriage, but they would also have known Charles Tildsley, a leading light of the choir, through their mutual involvement with the Methodist circuit. 

Who’s Who does not record that Thomas Wood was, in effect, the proprietor of a small private school in Stockton Brook.  This, as far as is known, is the only other fact connected with the family to be noted in a history.  The Victoria County History of Staffordshire, citing a 1940 Kelly’s Directory as its authority, mentions that:-

 "In 1940 a preparatory school was held in West End Villa at Stockton Brook."


 The directory entry in question reads


West End Preparatory School {Miss J Wakefield Wood,

Principal}, Stockton Brook, Stoke. [1]


Thomas’s investment in education came about as a result of a family tragedy.  His oldest sister, Ann Jane Wakefield, died soon after giving birth to a daughter, Jennie, in 1903.  Mr Wakefield thereupon, according to family legend, left England for Canada - and never returned.  The aging Ann Wood’s energies were already exhausted in caring for Gertrude, so she could not take in the motherless infant.  Tom and his wife adopted the girl, who came to be known as Jenny Wakefield Wood.  
They ensured that Jenny received an education, and in her early years she worked as a teacher in Stoke.  However, she was plagued with rheumatoid arthritis, and the long journey to work became arduous.   Thomas solved the problem by having a school constructed in the grounds of his Stockton Brook villa.  The building was little more than a large wooden shed, with folding partitions dividing it into two classrooms.  
Miss Wood, as she was known to her pupils, lived on in the house after Thomas Wood and his wife had died, and eventually became too ill to undertake any teaching herself; in later years pupils of the school were sometimes taken into the house itself - where she would greet them from her sick bed!  The school eventually closed in about 1960.  

[1] The Victoria History, as the Who’s Who entry confirms, has the address of the establishment slightly wrong. 



text © Pat Ex